analog clockI’ve got a confession to make.

I don’t always hit my recording deadlines. It’s true.

I’ve shared with you why it’s important to set deadlines, but if you don’t go about it the right way, your deadlines are just arbitrary dates…snatched out of thin air. They’ll come and go before you know it, and you won’t be any closer to your goals.

That said, you should accept the fact that you’re probably going to miss a deadline or two, especially if it’s self-imposed. The problem with self-imposed deadlines is that you can always talk yourself out of them. There’s no one there to hold you accountable.

When working with clients, it’s a little easier, because once you tell them a date, you know they’re expecting you to be finished by that date.

The Date Doesn’t Matter

The problem I run into is this. Like a good little boy, I will follow my own advice and set a deadline. The idea of a deadline is to create a sense of urgency. Even if you miss your deadline, chances are you got much more accomplished than if you had never even had a deadline.

The problem is…I’ve done this long enough that the urgency has worn off. Maybe you’re like me. The deadline is two weeks away, and you think, “I’ve got plenty of time to get it done…let me go play Playstation for a while.” šŸ™‚

Two weeks later the date is here, and you’re not done. Why?

Because the date doesn’t matter.

You may be the type of person who wrings his hands for days, trying to figure out what a realistic deadline should be. The truth is the date doesn’t matter. If all you do is set a deadline and nothing else, chances are you’re gonna fail.

Put Milestones on It

That’s what I did recently. I’m mixing an album for a good friend. I set a deadline for when I’d have the mixes to him. I worked on the songs for 3 days, and they were starting to sound great! So I took a break.

Next thing I knew, the day was here, and I wasn’t ready.

The problem is…I just set a date and that’s it.

The key to setting and keeping your deadlines is to plan out milestones along the way to get you to the deadline. In other words, if you’re mixing a 10-song album, and you tell the client it’ll be ready in three weeks, then you’ve got to mix one song every two days to meet your deadline.

I didn’t do that.

I set a deadline, then just assumed I was working at a good pace. I had no milestones, no way to measure my progress…and I went late.

So what did I do? I set a new deadline, then mapped out exactly when I would have each song finished, even giving myself an extra day to go back and make any final tweaks.

There area million ways to improve your productivity in the studio. If you’re the type of person who sets deadlines (and I highly recommend them), then make sure you’re also setting milestones. Otherwise, it’s just a random, arbitrary date.

Thoughts? Leave a comment and let us know how YOU deal with deadlines.

  • Wow. Great article. I agree in everyway. But what I love about this is the “meme” you mention which is that of MILESTONES. Great, great way to think about it!!

    • Thanks Noah. I’ve just found that in music or anything else, a goal without an action plan is just a wish. A plan makes it real…and measurable.

  • Leyla

    I think in this deadlines we have to consider the unexpected issues like a wrong play, software, electricity (some countries in Latin America are common).

    • Absolutely. Bad stuff always happens when you’re up against a deadline.

  • I’m guilty of that. I set deadlines and I normally end up being SO far behind that I never catch up. Also guilty of booking too many projects at once and trying to please everyone at the same time. Like the phrase in the Paul McCartney tune, “I’ve gone back so far, I’m in front of me!” I’ve really got to get a handle on that.

    • Don’t feel bad, Mike. It’s hard to strike that good balance. Still figuring it out myself.